Intro: Duration: (01:40)
Opening music jingle & sound effects
Hey everyone. I'm Jeff Hunt, and this is the Human Capital podcast produced by GoalSpan. My quest on this podcast is to uncover the deeply human aspect of work. Today we're going to talk about the importance of being present at work. For many people, the hurriedness of life and the pressures of business can easily take us out and take us somewhere other than the present.
That means focusing on the past or the future, or maybe dwelling on problems in our job or what's not working well, when I mentioned being present at work, I'm not talking about just showing up for our jobs or our employees, but actually being active with them. I'm excited today to invite one of my relatives, to be a guest on the show.
Actually not just one of my relatives, but my son, Hayden. Hayden is an accomplished singer-songwriter whose songs just surpassed 5 million streams. So, he's the real deal. He spent this last summer leading and managing all counselors at a summer camp for kids in Yosemite. And I get the pleasure of talking with Hayden about this leadership experience and some of the lessons that he learned at camp.
And how so many of these lessons actually apply to us in business. This episode is going to be a treat because Hayden is willing to share one of his songs with us speaks deeply to being present. And I'm sure you will enjoy it. Welcome, Hayden.
Hey Jeff. Happy to be here.
Topic 1. Guest’s background. Leadership in Yosemite (01:41)
First, let's just get started by having you share with our listeners a little bit about your background.
Yeah. So I graduated from UCLA with a degree in ethnomusicology, which is the study of jazz and I studied jazz piano performance. And so I'm a songwriter and, first and foremost, a storyteller. So, this past summer was my attempt to go live fully and come back with stories that I can communicate through songs.
We're going to get to your experience from this summer and how it translates into leadership and strategies that we can apply in the workplace. But before we do that, tell me a little bit more about the music that you write today. What's what type and style of music.
So yeah, I write indie folk music, so I'm a singer and play guitar and piano, and record.
And so. Recently been really focused on it. I try to ask really honest questions in my music and I try to process whatever is at the forefront of my mind, through the song as I'm writing. My last project was really centered around the idea of presence and being present and allowing ourselves to absorb and observe the beauty that surrounds us.
And so it was focusing a lot on the planet and protecting the planet. But it was also really focused on allowing ourselves to experience, wonder, and joy and be filled up by like I said, the beauty that surrounds us in people and in nature.
This really does require presence, which is what we're going to be talking a lot about in the rest of this episode.
So I'm excited to jump into that. We mentioned your work and the introduction this summer. Tell me a little bit more about your job in Yosemite and what that looked like, managing all those counselors.
Yeah. So that was exactly what I was coaching. I was coaching nine counselors, guy counselors who were in their early twenties.
Most of them were in college, some of them graduated, and they were counselors for campers. We had four sessions, actually, six sessions of campers come through. And each of my counselors had seven boys in their cabin. Each session. Ranging from third grade to 11th grade. And they're obviously by with their own age.
So, my job was to help them be the best counselors they possibly could be. And that ended up being a very relational thing because I'm trying to have them basically be better parents and a lot of ways as they're controlling, not controlling, but helping these kids grow. And I guess in some ways, wrangling these kids for two weeks.
So yeah, it was really, really cool to get to mentor these guys and develop their skills and their faith, and their relational ability.
Topic 2. Strategies to be present at work (04:50)
Talking about the presence and being present at work. And helping our employees, to also be present. What were some of your strategies or what were some of the ways that you were able to be fully present with these counselors that you were working with over the summer?
Yeah. Well, the main thing that I was actually coaching these guys to do was be present with their campers. And so I think it was a really cool opportunity to, I had to lead by example for these counselors to understand what it means to engage with and be present in the lives of their campers. I had to be present in their day-to-day and in their mental, emotional, spiritual, physical health, and growth.
And so I was really coaching them in being present. And in that way I was having to be present with them myself. And so I really learned a lot about being more than just physically present with them. But also mentally and spiritually and emotionally.
And say a little bit more about what that looks like. So pragmatically for our listeners, because we don't want this to be in the ether. We want people to know, what does this really mean? So if I'm at work and I'm a manager or a leader, or I'm an employee and an individual contributor, what are the things that I can do? And what did you do to really be fully present with them?
Well, the one thing that I tried to really prioritize was making sure that there was a high level of trust between the nine guys and me. So that when I gave them feedback, it was embraced and absorbed because there's trust there and they felt well supported by me.
So being present meant seeking them out to ask them questions, to make sure that they were healthy and growing and getting enough rest and, developing our relationships so that they have trust for me, that they appreciated my insights. And that they felt first and foremost, well supported by me and well-loved by me so that when I gave them feedback.
Maybe harder to digest criticism, that it was done in a loving way that was able to be received because they felt like there was trust and they felt well supported by me as well. So I think that the presence was not just, I think it's easy to think of presence as just positive or supportive, but I think equally important was my honesty with them.
And so having trusted that I could be present with them in what they're doing well and what they can grow in.
It sounds like it's really about engagement, engaging with them, relationally, knowing them, understanding their strengths and weaknesses being willing to speak truth to them, but undergirding that truth with trust. Is that sort of what you're trying to say?
Absolutely. Yeah, exactly.
And I love that concept because engagement it's really all of the buzzwords today in businesses, especially on the HR people side of the businesses about employee experience, which is undergirded by engagement and trust. And just as a reminder for our listeners, highly engaged workforce companies actually are more profitable than those that are disengaged according to Gallup.
But I think it's important to kind of highlight that it's not just about the profitability, the profitability is a by-product and in your case, the profitability ends up being better relationships, better performance from your counselors. Maybe more open and honest communication. Would you say that is the case?
Definitely. I think high levels of presence and engagement led to a lot more growth and I think that's what we were there for. For these campers to grow and for ourselves to grow. I saw I think in times where I was engaging highly and I was pregnant with. And the times that they were present with their campers, I saw a lot of really beautiful moments come out of that. So definitely
Topic 3. Growing in our work. What does being present look like? (09:10)
Then speaking of growth, what, what are some of the other ways that you saw yourself grow in this job?
One hard element of this job were the moments with campers because part of my job was in the sensitive issues and camper conflict. That was beyond the counselors, they would bring them to me.
So I was always in the loop with the hard situations going on between campers and maybe more sensitive issues that sometimes had to be reported. And so I think once one thing that I really developed this summer was problem-solving and having those tough conversations with campers who are in conflict.
So mediation too, communication. I think the big takeaway was, just question-asking. Because when it got down to it, asking good questions of these campers was really what helped it wasn't giving wisdom or advice. It was asking questions that could spur their own empathy for one another and their own trains of thought to have them figure problems out on their own.
I love that because it's also something that translates really well to business. And that sense of curiosity. In fact, we just talked about this recently on a different episode of the podcast. How critical curiosity is as a leadership skill in working with your people. And the other thing I'm reflecting on is that by asking questions, then your employees, your counselors actually feel like you care about them, right?
Oh yeah, totally. Yeah asking questions is one of the best ways to support someone. And that's what I really tried to demonstrate and lead by example for them. Supporting someone is not just giving them affirmation. It's also asking questions and engaging highly. So that was a big thing I learned.
It was really cool to watch the kids. In many ways did this better than the adults, because they're examples of presence for us that we were talking before. Like what, what is presence? And I think the kids embody it really well when they're 10 years old, they're so focused on whatever's right in front of them.
They experienced wonder and awe in a way that many adults lose. And so it was cool to talk with my counselors about how do we borrow their wonder because sometimes we need to borrow it. And so looking at them just be so captivated by what's around them was a really cool lesson of seeing their wonder and reminding ourselves that we should still do that too.
I love that reference too, because it makes me think of kids that are very young and how they are innately good at being present with, one another. So when they're on the playground or in the sandbox and they're playing, they are literally in the moment and we somehow get that beat out of us as we get older.
And so, it sounds like partly what you're saying is you're trying to help your counselors, your employees to sort of redevelop that sense of presence. Right?
Totally. Yeah. And back to the question asking thing, I think that when we would ask really baseline questions, trying to figure out what the desire of these campers was, that was when a lot of the beautiful work happened.
One example was in a camper conflict with two eight-year-olds. There was a camper who is really consistently unkind and. When I started asking really baseline questions like, Hey, do you want to make friends here? Do you want to have friends? Is that something that you want? Do you want to be someone with who people want to be friends?
When we start asking those questions, he was like, yeah, totally. And that totally reframed everything for him. And then he started asking the questions to this other camper saying, how can I be a better friend to you? What are the things that I can do that would make you like me more? And then he'd be like, well, maybe if you didn't say mean things to me.
And he was actually finally able to digest that because he saw the cost that it's friendship and that is a desire of his. And so I think when we ask good questions, it can actually really unlock a lot of really beautiful moments and they can do the work themselves. And so I think similarly with.
I'm sure in the workplace being present really just means asking the next layer of questions.
Topic 4. Helping employees be in roles where they're fulfilled (13:46)
And I think your reference is so good because what it demonstrates is the pivot that can take place in a relationship based on the questions and the curiosity that exists. So it can be pretty significant.
Were there any difficult leadership challenges you had over the course of the time you were working there?
Yeah. For sure. I'd say the most difficult leadership challenge that I had was one particular counselor who'd who had less of a desire, less of an innate desire to engage with these campers because a lot of the counselors that we get at this camp.
Are really eager to impact the lives of these kids and to help them grow and just be really engaged with them. And so sometimes we'll get counselors who are less engaged and don't have that same desire. And, and so working with that core lack of desire to engage with the kids on a profound level constantly was challenging.
And so it was, I think definitely hard to, I just realized asking for that presence and that engagement is not feasible if there's not actually a desire to get filled up by the work that is being done. And I can see that probably translating well to the workplace where if there's not a desire to be doing that work if you don't feel filled up by the work you're doing there won't be a good presence.
There won't be good engagement because I think just at our core we function based on what fills us up.
Yeah, you're absolutely correct. And we're really doing each other a disservice when we allow people to stay in roles that they're not fulfilled in, or they're not competent to perform in. Maybe it's our fault or maybe it's their fault, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter.
If we see that somebody is in a role and it's not working, we need to be able to ask those questions and have those difficult conversations, and then we'll make better decisions. And maybe there's a different role in the organization that a person can fulfill, or maybe not. But at the end of the day, it'll be better for both parties if we can make that type of change.
Are there any unexpected things that came up that you felt really helped you grow in your leadership competency?
Yeah. There were lots of things that I developed that were unexpected and I think one really cool one was just seeing how much hinged on the relationships I had with these guys.
And like, we talked about trust before, think about supporting them so that they could receive my feedback. One big way of supporting them well, that I learned was being aware of their needs and making sure that they were aware of their own needs. And that was actually a big challenge. Was developing this skill for them to self-regulate and to know when they needed more physical rest when they needed mental or emotional rest.
And oftentimes because they're with campers. They’re with the kids 24/7. They don't have a lot of adult interaction. So sometimes it's just a basic need of having an adult conversation. And when they know that they need that, we really worked on them communicating that with me because I'm the one who can get that time for them.
And so I learned just about how we can't function well, we can't do our jobs well, we can't be good brothers or sons or friends or spouses. If we're not prioritizing our basic needs. Which are, I guess, physical rest, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, all of these things are vital for us to be present and be engaged because it's not realistic to ask these counselors to be fully present or fully engaged for 24 hours a day for two weeks with these campers.
So the quest is then to have them be aware of their needs and communicating those needs to me. And for me to support them well, by seeking them out to ask how they're doing. And if their needs are being met and how I can better support them in their needs.
So it's really empowering them to speak up, but also holding them accountable.
So what you're saying is really setting the standards at the beginning of the relationship that state very explicitly. I want you to tell me if something's not going well, or if you're out of balance or if you need more rest, or if there are other ways that I can support you. The other thing that I'm reflecting on is that it's about engaging with them proactively, which definitely translates to the work world, especially with remote work, because when we're working remotely, it's different than having the opportunity to engage people.
Face-to-face walk down the hallway, see somebody see how they're doing or having lunch together with someone. It requires that level of productivity we're actually reaching out and asking the right questions, both from managers to employees and the other way around. Wouldn't you say?
I would definitely say that. And I think it was an interesting dynamic of working away from society, basically at camp for three months, you know, we're off. We're off our phones. We're right outside Yosemite, and we're pretty much away from our lives and the rest of the world. And so it's an interesting similarity with COVID and being completely like having completely separate parts of life.
I think for us, I had to be really aware of, Hey, maybe there's stuff going on at home for these guys that are coming into work that I need to be checking in about because oftentimes it's out of sight out of mind. And so maybe like them being with these kids 24/7, this session is harder than the last session because something just happened at home that I don't know about.
So asking the question, how can I support you? Is a really powerful question because oftentimes we actually don't know how to answer that. How am I best supported? That's a question that I feel like many people don't actually know the answer to. So when we figure out how we can be supported better then a lot is unlocked.
Topic 5. Still (20:35)
Okay. We're going to take a pause and listen to this song. But before we do tell us a little bit about this song that you're willing to share with our listeners and how it speaks to being present. Not only at work, but really in life in general.
So I wrote this song before this summer at camp, which is really cool because a lot of these sentiments were reiterated and reaffirmed in my time this summer.
So the song is called still, and it's about stillness and the power of stillness. So the song addresses kind of the how of learning to be more fully present. And I think the most precious moments to me are when I pause the constant movement, ambition, routines and just breathe and be still. And I think stillness allows me to feel gratitude that allows me to unearth pain sometimes and sadness that maybe I'm pushing down still in a Springs perspective.
I think a really cool thing about stillness is it actually compels us to avoid aimless movement because when we're still, we move with more intention. When we start moving again when I sit and pause and take a deep breath. I'm like, oh, this is how I actually want to be moving. When I'm caught up in lots of ambition or doing things like I have a lot more intention when I actually take moments to be still away from that constant movement.
Most importantly, I think being still just reminds me that I'm still here on earth and just it, I think when we pause, we have gratitude for life and it puts everything in perspective. It puts our work in perspective and kind of creates that, the core desire of what the work we're doing is it's like, okay, is this work filling me up in a way that I'm making an impact on people and absorbing the beauty around me? So yeah.
Very meaningful. Okay. Let's have a listen.
"Still" Song Lyrics
[Verse 1] I will move and forget it happened I will talk just a little more They all go until they’re laughing Highest bet in the bidding war
[Pre Chorus] So wait up We're made to pause With all the gain Comes heavy loss I'll sit and see And stop to breathe I hear, I'm here So still I'll be
[Chorus] If I am still I can’t avoid the things that I conceal If I am still I can’t deny the weight, oh I can feel again I’m still here
[Verse 2] I will move, but with intention In my pause, unsettle me Brother you've run out of passion The silent auction's for thе bidder's key [Pre Chorus] So wait up We'rе made to pause With all the gain Comes heavy loss I'll sit and see And stop to breathe I hear, I'm here So still I'll be
[Chorus] If I am still I can’t avoid the things that I conceal If I am still I can’t deny the weight, oh I can feel again If I am still I can’t avoid the things that I conceal If I am still I can’t deny the weight, oh I can feel again I’m still here
That song is so meaningful and fits so well with the theme of this episode which is being present at work and in life and our relationships. I'm reflecting on how before we played the song you shared how stillness actually helps us, helps compel us to avoid aimless movement and move with more intention, and I was listening to your lyrics, and heard you say, I will move, but with intention and so it's a reminder that, after we pause, we can move with much greater intention.
The other thing I appreciated about what you said in the song and your lyrics is how we're made to pause because we are made to pause, we can't go 24/7. And that when we do pause, our ability to be present with one another is much greater. And how, you also said with all the gain comes heavy loss, which I'm just reflecting on how we can pursue so aggressively that maybe we lose out on things. The opportunity cost of not being still is very high, is another way of putting that. So there's a music video associated with this, tell us a little bit about that.
Yeah, so the music video is about a surfer who is on this journey in her VW van, down the California coast, looking for waves. And she finally finds his perfect spot on the California coast during sunset.
And she gets in the water and she's surfing, right before sunset. So it's like the golden hour and she's ripping on these waves. And then as the sunset kind of explodes in the sky, there's this perfect wave that rolls through. And instead of taking that wave, she kind of just sits back on her board, lets it pass by, and watches the sunset instead.
And so it's kind of to capture that sentiment of the constant opportunities that we have, and maybe not, maybe not constant opportunities, maybe just the constant drive of wanting to climb the ladder or get to the next step. And there's always something more there's more to be made. There's more success to be had, but instead to sit back and watch the sunset and have a moment of stillness.
And see the beauty around us, and there's nothing wrong with ripping on those waves. You know, she showed, she totally could have caught that wave then. And maybe ideally she could have caught that wave and still had been looking up and seeing that sunset. And that's a whole other sentiment, but I think just the ability for us to maybe let opportunities pass in order to actually embrace life and, and just.
To be present in the beauty around us and to be able to absorb that and observe it. With great intentionality is quite a skill. And so I tried to have her embody that in the water
Very well said. And where can people find that music video if they want to see it?
Yes. You just look up Hayden Everett still on YouTube it should pop up. It's the one with the van as the thumbnail.
Topic 6. Strategies to increase your presence in life and work (28:41)
Okay. Are there any other strategies that you think that employees and managers people could use to increase their presence in working life?
Okay. It really all comes back to relationships, which is so cool that, you know, this podcast is human capital.
It's just about, I mean, I think we often people separate work from home life for whatever that is, but it's all people, we're all people and those relationships are what drive everything. I would love to flip that though and say, ask you that same question. What are some strategies that you feel like employees and managers can use to increase presence in the workplace?
I think our conversation so far has provided some good groundwork for these concepts, I have a couple I would add. One is active listening. Obviously that's talked about a lot today. What does it look like to actually be actively listening to somebody? The example I like to give is when you're at a party and you're in a conversation with someone and they, you just get the sense that they're really not present with you. They're looking all around the room, they're distracted. I'm not as interested in spending time with that type of person or conversation. And, how can we expect employees to want to be engaged in their jobs or with their managers, if they're having those types of experiences. So sometimes those are common in the workplace. Put away your phone, put away your computer be fully present with the person in front of you. And, that's just a gift I think for most people, that's what they want most is to be heard. So we need to remember that.
The other thing is paying attention to both the affect and the effect of what they're saying. So, I'm referring to both the content they're delivering, and how they're delivering it, all those important nonverbal cues because I think if we can pay attention to those, we can ask some compelling questions and we can build better and deeper relationships with more trust, I think performance levels will go up at the workplace. So, if we do these things well there's some very significant benefits that result. Definitely.
Definitely. Yeah, with active listening, I feel like to not to beat a dead horse, but I think like people are often thinking about what their response is going to be, or maybe how they can relate to what's being said, but instead to reframe the conversation and instead focus on what's a question I can ask to further understand this person better.
Thinking of questions to ask rather than responses to, to make.
A couple of other things that come to mind for me is just making sure you're balanced in your life and your workday. Like, did you eat well? Did you get exercise? Did you get to sleep? Did you plan your day? Have you taken inventory on really what's most consuming you the most what's taken up the most real estate in your brain?
And are you able to kind of unburdened some of those things? I love your references, Hayden to stillness because our ability to be still outside the workplace increases our ability to be productive in the workplace. If we're taking time off, whether it's on the weekends or we're taking vacations, I think that's really critical.
Being intentional and proactive is good and just creating habits, you know, they say it's what 60 or 90 days to get to a habit. And so making sure habits are also helping you have a quality of life and balance. Lastly, I would say really, if you haven't done personality typing, whether it's Myers-Briggs or disc or strengths finders, there's also a new one from the table group, which has Patrick Lencioni's company, the six types of working genius.
But those are always helpful, both for yourself, for self-awareness and to better understand your colleagues. One of my favorites that's less talked about in business is the Enneagram. So for those of you that haven't heard of the Enneagram go out there and Google it, and you'll find there are nine different personality types.
It's been around for the millennium. And it's really taken on a lot of traction recently. And the more we understand our own predispositions and those of others, the healthier our responses can be with others. Thanks for asking that.
Topic 7. Lighting-round questions (32:52)
Let's shift to some lightning-round questions. What are you most grateful for?
Yeah, I think as I wrote about, on this last record, I'm very grateful for the planet and the beauty that's all around us and I'm trying to experience more gratitude for that because I strongly believe that we have in many ways, been desensitized to the beauty that surrounds us. And so, yeah, I want to be more and more grateful for the earth and for beauty.
And I'm definitely very grateful for my relationships with my family and for my friends. And so, yeah, I think the thing I'm the things that I'm most grateful for is the planet and my relationships.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received.
I think not to be cheesy, but I've received a lot of good advice from my parents, from you, and from mom.
And I think you both taught me many, many amazing things about listening. I feel very grateful to have learned the lesson of how important listening well is to people and that people are first that the order should be people, planet, profit. I think that is succinctly the best advice I've ever received is that the order should always be people, then planet, then profit.
Love that on that note. Thank you for being present with me on the show today
I'm just thrilled to be able to gather, share these concepts with our listening community and was just, it was a pleasure for me today. So thanks for coming to the show. I love you, man.
Closing music jingle/sound effects
Thanks for listening to the show this week. We release new episodes every other Tuesday. Let me know what you thought of this episode by emailing humancapitalgoalspan.com. Human capital is produced by GoalSpan. Subscribe, wherever you get your podcasts. And please share this podcast with your colleagues, team, or friends. Thanks for being human kind.